THE NEOPHYTE LAWYER
DAY 86: WHAT’S GOING ON IN OUR LAW SCHOOLS? (UPDATE)
I’ve already discussed the Alaburda v. Thomas Jefferson School of Law before (here and here, for the curious). Back in June, I speculated that this might just be the first indication of a new trend: law school graduates suing their schools for false advertising and fraud.
Well, it appears that the flood gates are opening. Newser and the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog report that suits have been filed against both Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan and New York Law School. The suits seek $200 million from NYLS and $250 million from Thomas M. Cooley, in an attempt “to remedy a systemic, ongoing fraud that is ubiquitous in the legal education industry and threatens to leave a generation of law students in dire financial straits.”
Basically, all three suits allege that the law schools in question artificially inflate the employment and salary statistics for recent graduates, thus giving the impression to applicants that they are practically guaranteed to land a high-paying legal job upon graduation. The schools response is that they are simply following current ABA requirements.
Neophyte Lawyer’s Thoughts
It’s easy to ridicule the plaintiffs in these cases, and view this as yet another example of “Boy, look at those out of control lawyers at it again.” And in these difficult economic times, it might be a challenge to find a sympathetic jury (“Hey, we’re all suffering right now. Why should we give these kids a bunch of money?”). I think it is going to be an uphill battle for these particular cases.
On the other hand, if the allegations are true, it does point to a major systemic problem in legal education. We should all realize that there are no guarantees in life, and that admission to law school isn’t going to make all your problems magically disappear. But applicants should make an educated decision, based on accurate information. It doesn’t seem quite fair to tell prospective students that 90% of your graduates are employed within 9 months of graduation, with an average salary of $75,000.00 per year or whatever, without mentioning that: (1) only 50% of those employed have full-time jobs in the legal profession (the rest are part-time or minimum wage jobs); and (2) those salary figures are the average of those who responded to the surveys, not all graduates.
The “Law School Transparency” movement is laudable. But it faces a major challenge. Law schools are in a constant competition for students, and for high rankings on the U.S. News & World Report listing. Unless the ABA or someone else with some kind of authority (*cough* Congress *cough*) steps in and enforces stricter reporting requirements, it will continue to be in the law schools’ best interests to “pad” their reporting statistics.